In our preparation to be principals, we learn about relationship-building. We learn about noticing the positive actions of our staff members, teachers, students, etc. We grown to understand what it truly means to be an instructional leader. As a beginning school leader, especially one in the middle school or high school who starts as an assistant principal (meaning you deal with disciplining students…. mostly), it can be hard to swallow when someone downright hates you for holding someone accountable for his/her actions. Especially for those of us who work so hard to be in the classrooms, visible in the hallways before/after school and between classes, in the cafeteria for all 2 hours that encompass the students’ lunch periods, the first time it happens, you feel hurt. You feel as though your professional being is attacked.
On one of the last mornings before the end of the school year in one of my first years as a high school assistant principal, I arrived to find cruel phrases spray painted on the school parking lot about myself and some of the other administrators….. a senior prank of sorts. My feelings were very hurt, as I had worked hard to help create a culture of high expectations for students while respecting them and interacting with them well (so I thought). My mentor administrator said it just meant I was doing a good job if I had some students so angry enough with me to do that.
I didn’t really agree with that 100%, although I knew that holding students accountable for their behavior was in their best interest for the their future…. educating them about making appropriate and inappropriate choices and the results of those choices. I definitely, though, wasn’t prepared enough for these types of scenarios when I was learning to be a school administrator.
My take from all of it is very relevant for now I think. There are many adminstrators and principals put into positions where they are expected to make great changes in student achievement scores, discipline stats, etc. For those of us who try to make the slow, lasting, and methodical changes with respect and collaboration with the greater school community, it feels even more painful when people within say and do hurtful things towards you. As I gained experience as a school leader and inevitably upset people in various circumstances, I realized that sometimes, people need to feel discomfort to grow. Whether it’s a student making poor decisions for herself or a teacher who can improve a skill set to better assist students in learning, sometimes those moral decisions will upset people. If in my heart and mind I knew I made a choice in the best interest of students, I learned to let go the actions of others that were designed to be hurtful toward me. I think that’s a good lesson for teachers in general and parents, too, in dealing with their own children at home.